ATLANTOS - $31.7 million dollar project

Horizon 2020 funded marine research blue growth £20,000 million pound European project




EU - NOVEMBER 25 2014

The largest marine science project that the European Commission has ever funded, the $31.7 million AtlantOS project, is due to start in January 2015, bringing together a wide spectrum of scientific disciplines from more than 60 research organizations across the world to enhance the efficiency of ocean observation procedures.

By fundamentally restructuring and integrating the existing, loosely-coordinated Atlantic ocean monitoring activities, as well as filling in the gaps, the multidisciplinary AtlantOS project will result in more efficient, more complete and lower cost information delivery. According to the National Oceanography Center (NOC), which will play a leading role in the project, the result is expected to have benefits ranging from improved safety planning for coastal communities in the event of oil spills, to better implementation of marine policies and more accurate weather forecasting for offshore energy.

Dr. Doug Connelly from NOC, who helped secure funding for AtlantOS, said, “What is really exciting about this project is that it brings together so many different scientific disciplines in a single project in a way that has never been done before. With contributions from biogeochemistry, physics, biology, technology, ocean observation and modeling, this will be a truly multidisciplinary project.”

AtlantOS will improve the readiness of existing ocean observing networks and data systems, as well as strengthening Europe’s contribution to the Global Ocean Observing System. Within this project, NOC will be playing the integral role of linking coastal and offshore systems through sea level work and coastal biogeochemical projects, as well as coordinating field observations, creating products to aid weather prediction and leading the development of new observation technologies, techniques and systems to deliver data on all priority parameters. 

Dr. Matt Mowlem, who leads technology developments in NOC and AtlantOS, is quoted as saying, “In addition to integrating observational efforts and best practice internationally, AtlantOS will support the development of technologies and techniques. It will also address the current lack of data for chemical and biological process in ocean observing, which should enable a step-change in our ability to understand and manage this unique environment.”

Professor Ian Wright, who is the Director of Science and Technology at NOC, observed that this type of project “is central to the NOC’s ambitions in developing in situ and persistent observing of multiple ocean parameters within a context of working with strong European partners.”

The AtlantOS project has received funding from the European Commission through the first ‘Blue growth’ Horizon2020 call, which aims to promote growth in the ocean economy through innovation and the improved sharing of data. The project, led by Professor Dr. Martin Visbeck (GEOMAR) will last 51 months.





Acronym: AtlantOS


AtlantOS is a project responding to the Horizon 2020 call BG-8-2014: Developing in-situ Atlantic Ocean Observations for a better management and sustainable exploitation of the maritime resources.

The first stage proposal was submitted on the 12th of March 2014 (with a second stage deadline 26 June). The project will start early 2015. 


AtlantOS is coordinated by the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Kiel, Germany.


AtlantOS is a research and innovation project that proposes the integration of ocean observing activates across all disciplines for the Atlantic, considering European as well as non-European partners (referencing to "The Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation", May 2013). The proposal applies the "Framework for Ocean Observing" to the observing of the Atlantic. The overarching goal of AtlantOS is the integration of the so far loosely-coordinated set of existing ocean observing activities to a sustainable, efficient, and fit-for-purpose Integrated Atlantic Ocean Observing System (IAOOS). The IAOOS is to form the ocean in-situ observing backbone of the Copernicus Marine Monitoring system, which is the marine part of the European Earth Observation Programme.






The Copernicus marine monitoring service provides regular and systematic reference information on the state of the physical oceans and regional seas. The observations and forecasts produced by the service support all marine applications.


For instance, the provision of data on currents, winds and sea ice help to improve ship routing services, offshore operations or search and rescue operations, thus contributing to marine safety.


The service also contributes to the protection and the sustainable management of living marine resources in particular for aquaculture, fishery research or regional fishery organisations.


Physical and marine biogeochemical components are useful for water quality monitoring and pollution control. Sea level rise helps to assess coastal erosion. Sea surface temperature is one of the primary physical impacts of climate change and has direct consequences on marine ecosystems. As a result of this, the service supports a wide range of coastal and marine environment applications.


Many of the data delivered by the service (e.g. temperature, salinity, sea level, currents, wind and sea ice) also play a crucial role in the domain of weather, climate and seasonal forecasting. The service is currently delivered in a pre-operational mode.


The products delivered by the Copernicus marine environment monitoring service today are provided free of charge to registered users through an Interactive Catalogue available on the web portal. A downloadable pdf version of the catalogue of products is also available on the same website.


The pre-operational marine service of Copernicus is currently provided through the EU-funded project MyOcean2.




The Framework for a sustainable global ocean observing system


OCEANOBS'09 - 25 SEPT 2009


The OceanObs'09 Conference brought together more than 600 scientists from 36 nations, supported by 99 Community White Papers and 47 Plenary Papers, to build a common vision for the provision of routine and sustained global information on the marine environment sufficient to meet society’s needs for describing, understanding and forecasting marine variability (including physical, biogeochemical, ecosystems and living marine resources), weather, seasonal to decadal climate variability, climate change, sustainable management of living marine resources, and assessment of longer term trends.


OceanObs'09 Conference Proceedings


The Conference Proceedings were published in 2011 and printed in 2012.

The Final Conference Statement incorporates comments received from the participants of the conference, and is a call to action available as a document » and as a brochure »

Conference Summary »

Plenary Papers »

Community White Papers »

A Framework for Ocean Observing


The Framework for Ocean Observing called for by the OceanObs'09 Conference Statement and adopted by the Global Ocean Observing System is meant to guide the ocean observing community as a whole to establish an integrated and sustained global observing system - one that includes ocean physics, biogeochemistry, and ocean biology and ecosystems, and addresses the variables to be measured, the approach to measuring them, and how their data and products will be managed and made widely available to modeling efforts and a wide range of users.


A Framework for Ocean Observing »




OceanObs'09 conference - Alberto Piola, Susan Wijffels, Ray Schmitt and Anny Cazenave.




IOC/UNESCO, ESA (organizing sponsors), CNES, EUMETSAT, NSF, WMO, NOAA, NASA, GEO, CLISAP, ONR, IGBP, CLS, Australian Bureau of Meteorology, BSH Germany, Mercator Océan, myOcean, Ifremer


Endorsing organizations








Canada has been invited to join AtlantOS, a large European consortium that is bidding for up to €20 million from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program to establish the Atlantic Ocean’s first integrated ocean observation system. The bid for Canadian participation in the Integrated Atlantic Ocean Observing System (IAOOS) is being led by the Marine Environmental, Observation, Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR) — a traditional Network of Centres of Excellence.

MEOPAR’s immediate challenge is to align the relevant domestic funders to support Canada’s inclusion in the program — borne out of the Galway initiative on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation launched less than a year ago — and work with other ocean research organizations to ensure industry participation.

Like so many areas of S&T, however, ocean research in Canada is hobbled by the lack of overarching strategies and coordination amongst research organizations and funding sources.

The recently released expert panel report on ocean science by the Council of Canadian Academies concluded that scientists face formidable challenges in coordinating activities and pooling resources to support Canada’s considerable expertise in the field. Canada ranks among the top countries in the output and impact of scholarly ocean science papers and has several world class systems for ocean observation and monitoring

Dr Doug Wallace, scientific director MEOPAR and holder of the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Ocean Science and Technology (CERC Ocean), is leading the charge to secure Canadian participation. He says MEOPAR is ideally positioned to play such a role and has the flexibility to act quickly. Participation in AtlantOS is critical to ensure that Canadian interests and research opportunities are well represented over the course of the research program.

“It’s a great opportunity and for MEO-PAR a great challenge … There’s potentially high benefit to accessing EU expertise and equipment as this information is highly relevant to Canada,” says Wallace. “The key is to find multisectoral cooperation and work effectively between the research community and industry. The US is gearing up for this and Canada needs to as well … There’s money in the system right now to coordinate and initiate a response.”

The initiative is designed to build on existing capacities on both sides of the Atlantic to enhance understanding of ocean processes at the level of the entire basin while reducing the costs of in-situ ocean observation. Expected impacts include increased temporal and geographic coverage of observational data in the Atlantic Ocean and development of standardized process models and forecast systems.

MEOPAR has produced a white paper — A Strategy for a Canadian Response to the Galway Alliance’s call for an Integrated Atlantic Ocean Observing System — which will be officially presented at the Oceans 14 conference in St John’s NF in September. In the meantime a draft version has been shared with US and European investigators.

Also being explored is the establishment of a multisectoral umbrella organization to guide coordination and support of Canada’s Atlantic Ocean and coastal regions. If successful, the approach could be replicated for ocean research activities and observation systems on the Pacific and Arctic coasts.

“Funding is the biggest challenge. Research funding is primarily academic and we can build on what DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) is doing,” says Wallace. “Then there’s the challenge of industry involvement, especially SMEs (small- and medium-sized enterprises). Participating EU companies will receive 100% of their research costs and overhead. We don’t have this in Canada and there’s no mechanism to integrate academic and government research efforts.”

Also missing is financial support for infrastructure, data management, field work and support for industry to demonstrate mobile technologies.

“Innovation in the ocean technology world comes out of groups of people trying to do difficult things together. That’s where the ideas are developed and exchanged, — an intellectual environment where ideas bubble up to the surface and are tested” says Wallace. “The technology component needs to be integrated. For instance, the need for information and ocean measurements and predictions in the offshore oil and gas industry. Industry is already collecting data but it could integrate it with academic and government measurements.”

MEOPAR is working closely with the Dalhousie Univ-based Institute for Ocean Research Enterprise (IORE) to promote partnerships with Canada’s considerable expertise in ocean research (much of it located in Halifax) and find ways to engage industry so that economic benefits can be realized.

Jim Hanlon, CEO of IORE, formerly called the Halifax Marine Research Institute, says Atlantic Canada has a long tradition of strong links between industry and government laboratories, particularly those of DFO.

“Companies have enjoyed rich relationship with government labs and there’s been huge IP (intellectual property) transfer but there’s very little interaction between companies and universities,” says Hanlon . “We need to demonstrate the value of this program to Canadian industry. The bridge is being built.”

Supported by a core grant of $350,000 annually from the Nova Scotia government, IORE’s mission is to build partnerships to help create sustainable economic activity from the region’s ocean research. It also serves as an outreach vehicle for CERC Ocean.

Wallace says that while MEOPAR can initiate Canada’s participation, there needs to be an alignment of funding streams. That could include DFO’s reduced but still significant research efforts and programs such as the $5-million Ventilation, Interactions and Transports Across the Labrador Sea (VITALS) program, funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.




ssThe Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR) is a team of outstanding Canadian researchers who are improving Canada’s ability to manage and respond to risk in the marine environment.

Through research and observation, MEOPAR is working to help reduce Canada’s vulnerability and exposure to hazards and improve responses to marine emergencies. This is achieved through both new and existing partnerships with organizations including:

- Academia
- All levels of government
- The insurance industry
- The oil and gas industry
- Marine technology firms
- Coastal communities
- Non-governmental organizations

Through strong multi-disciplinary training, MEOPAR fosters highly qualified personnel capable of placing Canada at the forefront of marine research and hazard management.

Over the coming decades, MEOPAR will develop disaster and risk reduction tools and propose positive adaptation measures which will allow Canada to be better positioned to manage all forms of ocean impact. Ultimately, MEOPAR will help us to better understand our greatest national resource from sea, to sea to sea.




1355 Oxford Street
Suite 2-41
Halifax, Nova Scotia 
Canada B3H 4J1

Doug Wallace
Scientific Director
Tel: 902-494-4132


Ronald Pelot, Ph.D., P.Eng.
Associate Scientific Director
Tel: 902-494-6113



NSERC - Aims to make Canada a country of discoverers and innovators for the benefit of all Canadians. The agency supports university students in their advanced studies, promotes and supports discovery research, and fosters innovation by encouraging Canadian companies to participate and invest in postsecondary research projects. NSERC researchers are on the vanguard of science, building on Canada’s long tradition of scientific excellence. 

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